Why you can fall violently ill right after a Trek in the Himalayas
This blog is a part of our Trekking 101 series, powered by ULTIMATE TREKKER – the Outdoor Leadership Program for pro trekkers.
Smelly, damp, bacteria laden and used by countless people before you. Is that how you imagine your bed? That’s what most trekking and equipment renting agencies offer as sleeping bags for trekking.
4Play aims to create awareness about the best practices, specific to the Indian outdoors. And enable you to step out with confidence. By making accessible an ocean of empirical knowledge gathered by the Indian Bear Grylls – Pranav Rawat himself.
Pranav Rawat is a seasoned mountaineer and an ice-climber, with a decade long experience as a summiteer. Pranav is also an UIAA certified Himalayan Mountain Guide and Wilderness First Responder, which makes him an unparalleled expert on climbing and trekking in the Indian Himalayas.
Sleeping bags can make or break your trek. Here is a breakdown for you on why you should always carry a personal sleeping bag for trekking.
What do experts say?
The professional trekker community strongly believes that one should always carry one’s own sleeping bag while trekking in the mountains.
Pranav staunchly advocates the personalized ownership of sleeping bags by anyone who is serious about trekking.
It is common knowledge that whenever one chooses to go for treks through agencies or companies, as part of their all expenses covered trips, sleeping bags are included to make the offerings lucrative. Even if you are one of those who wander off alone and plan on renting sleepingbags, it might not be a great idea.
There are “inherent risks associated with using shared or rented sleeping bags”, says Pranav.
Agencies typically keep a stock of sleeping bags (10-20 depending on trekking group sizes) at various fixed campsenroute to the peak or summit of the trek,and repeatedly use these for every trekking group in succession. Many of these camps witness 20 or more groups every month.
An example Pranav cites,
“Imagine the 1stgroup reaches the first base camp on Friday and spends two days there, after which they leave for the next base camp when the 2nd group arrives. Now suppose a person infected with a communicable disease or a bacterial/viral infection from the 1st group used a particular sleeping bag which is now going to be used by someone else from the 2nd group, it poses a serious infection risk to him/her.”
This is because the bacteria/virus tend to settle down in the sleeping bags and the agencies and gear renting companies wouldn’t get the bag cleaned or washed frequently (to cut costs),as a result the next person using it becomes highly susceptible.
“Diseases cost much more than the purchase of a good quality sleeping bag,” Pranav warns.
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Any other reasons?
Yes, another important reason to use one’s own sleeping bag while trekking is that many of the ones offered by trekking agencies and gear renting companies are of inferior grade and are rated low for heat insulation. Many times they have been rigorously used for many years and have lost their insulating properties and might even be infected with germs.
Pranav suggests that using such gear could leave you feeling cold at night and probably sick.
Yes. Having your own sleeping bag and tent will allow you the flexibility to explore more landscapes solo. Your dependency on groups also decreases as you are self-sufficient in terms of equipment.
Having said that, even if you are travelling in a group It can also help you save some Vitamin M if you can negotiate with trekking agencies to reduce trek prices since you wouldn’t be using their sleeping bags.
Moreover, carrying your own sleeping bag will add a few pounds to your rucksack thereby by helping you push your body a wee bit more. Also, enjoying the sense of accomplishment which comes with carrying one’s own equipment.
Perhaps the other most important meritin carrying your own sleeping bag is hygiene and a feel good factor. “A warm, clean bed is one of humans’ primary needs,” concludes Pranav. Blame evolutionary biology for this but it does make you feel secure and is likely to help you sleep better, leaving you recharged for the great hike you will attempt the next day.
Also, here is a list of essential trekking hacks that will make life easy while trekking in India.
Ever had a bad sleeping experience on your trek? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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Author: Pranav Manocha
Pranav is a Nepal earthquake survivor with a flair for marketing. Beginning with a Quote T-Shirt business with a school friend after grade 12, he did his graduation in Literature from the University of Delhi. In his free time he loves reading Camus, trail riding and skinny dipping in rivulets around Manali.